Inflation moves in a mysterious way.

No one person or institution is left untouched, not even the church.

Many houses of worship are now facing the problem of trying to keep down costs without reducing charitable services or programs.

At the Sixth Presbyterian Church, the crusade against inflation has become a top priority for its young pastor, the Rev. Charles Summers. His cost-cutting efforts and efforts of his congregation have, so far kept the church out of financial trouble while preserving its tradition of helping the poor and needy.

About three years ago, "we went through a major shakeup and cut our budget 10 to 12 percent on programs and staff," Summers said.

One of the biggest problems facing Summers was the high cost of maintaining and operating the 75-year-old stone church at the corner of 16th and Kennedy Sts. NW.

A three-part program was instituted consisting of increased use of the building by renting space to private groups such as day care centers, energy conservation and a reduction in church staff.

There was also an across-the-board cut in everything from the use of the church van to office supplies. According to the church's annual report, $43,095 was budgeted for administrative and property maintenance expenses, but only $39,393 actually was spent.

Rising energy costs made it too costly to air condition the 50-foot-high sanctuary during the summer. So the summer servicess were moved to an earlier, cooler hour and to the smaller but more comfortable, Friendship Hall. This alone resulted in a $500 savings during the first summer.

During the winter, thermostats are turned down to 66 to 68 degrees. Pexiglass was placed over the stained glass windows in a further attempt to reduce energy waste. "This large stone building was built in an age [1916] when energy was not a question," Summers noted.

Summers is currently the only full-time employe at the church. The other positions -- the secton, solists, secretaries -- all have been made part-time. The amount spent on salaries for organists and soloists in 1979 came in well under the $8,245 that was set aside.

The congregation of Sixth Presbyterian numbers about 250, half of whom are older people who have lived most of their lives in the area. Many of them are on fixed incomes. The other half is younger, and some are students from West Africa, the Carribbean and South Korea, countries where much Presbyterian missionary work is concentrated. The church has no large contributors, according to Summers. The biggest contribution is about $3,000 a year.

"We struggle to conserve energy where we can, and we encourage people to give as much as they can," said the pastor.

This year those donations will contribute about $70,000 to the budget of $93,000. The remainder of the money comes from investments and rent.

The church's policy has been to devote 20 percent of its budget to benevolent expenses -- support of missionary work, Presbytery causes such as the Korean Community Service Center and local community causes and services. Summers is committed to maintaining that share of charitable contribution in spite of financial pressures to reduce it. "The struggle is to remember concern for others in the midst of caring for ourselves," he said.

Inflation also has forced the church to seek a better return on its investments. In 1977 the church's trustees took one of the reserve accounts, a savings account, sold several shares of stock left to the church by members and invested in a money market fund. That more than doubled the interest the money had been earning, according to Summers.

In addition, the church manse, which was three miles from the church, was sold for $120,000. The proceeds were used to help purchase a home for Summers two blocks from the church, and the rest of the money was put into a reserve account.

Because the church is so old (it was actually started in 1853 in Southwest Washington) it has a healthy amount of reserve capital, money left to the church by its members. "That gives us a safety valve against inflation," Summers said.

The church has recently changed its position on fund raising and stages a yearly garden party that raises between $700 and $1,000 for church activities.

One of the ways to increase contributions is to increase membership. In the late 1950s, Sixth Presbyterian had about 600 members. With the exodus to the suberbs in the 1960s, that number declined.Now, Summers is anticipating a increase in membership as more people return to the city.

The church has just embarked on an experimental evangelical outreach program with the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church in an effort to attract new members.

Summers gives a great deal of credit to his congregation in helping the church through these troubled fiscal times. "Lay people are taking on a lot of the work," he said. "When secretaries are on vacation, volunteers come in. People are more personally involved in the ministry."

"One of the biggest hardships is the difficulty of making long-range plans," Summers said.

"In the face of 12 percent inflation, every time we get a request for help it gets harder. But even with inflation, we are really well off. We try to keep a perspective. We cannot let inflation rob us of our compassion."